Organizational Hutzpah: Do You have the Influencer Chops to be a Top Channel Chief

Organizational influence is one of the most important qualities of a successful channel chief in the information technology industry today. Being a channel chief requires securing a seat at the table wherever big decisions are made. If you don’t have a relationship with your CEO, you’re unlikely to occupy a spot in that all important place. Without a seat at the table, you’re likely to find yourself living in the shadows of your chief of marketing or head of worldwide sales.


It Takes Juice

To succeed as a channel chief, you’ll need what Hollywood calls “juice” to get your job done. That’s because you’ll need the help of others inside your company to coordinate go-to-market activities, plan for product rollouts and provide sufficient support to partners. There’s more: Being a channel chief requires more than just getting along with others; it sometimes requires compelling them to work on your behalf. This includes powerful leaders within an organization that have different if not competing agendas. Think executives who represent engineering, legal, finance and more. Without organizational influence, you’ll never get their cooperation when it comes to revenue sharing, customer satisfaction, partner reward or support. To be a successful channel chief, you have to thrive amid ambiguity, change and conflict. Is that coded into your DNA? Here’s a simple test to find out:


  1. Do you play well with others?
  2. Can you work across cross-functional lines and motivate others that do not report to you?
  3. Can you secure promises including funding, commitment and talent to work on your behalf throughout your own organization?

What does that influence look like in action? Here’s an example: A few years ago, a tech company known for its broad product portfolio and mercurial CEO scheduled some media interviews to promote the appointment of a new channel chief. Because the CEO was not especially involved with partners at the time, reporters were eager to ask the new channel chief about meeting the CEO before taking the job. After fumbling around for some words, the channel chief confessed sheepishly, “I didn’t meet him before I took the job.” It was a portentous sign. Despite the chief’s best efforts to improve channel relations and implement pro-friendly channel policies, the company’s partner programs never fully transformed. One reason? Sales leaders with closer ties to the CEO persuaded him to accept more channel conflict than what the channel chief liked. Not surprisingly, the individual lasted only a few years in the role.


This post is an excerpt from our new eBook, The Nine Attributes of a World-Class Channel Chief, authored by T.C. Doyle, Senior Content Director, Channel Brands, Penton Technology. Download it for free and learn whether you have more of the element of what it takes to be a top channel chief.

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